Working as a waitress and going to restaurants, I see both sides of the wine-ordering process. It's tough. Unless you actually know about wine, a list of names doesn't really mean a lot to you so it can be embarrassing. I get that feeling from a lot of people who come into the restaurant I work in. They don't really know a lot so they just sort of blag it, but they just end up looking like knobs. This is a list of things to do and what you definitely shouldn't do when ordering wine!
|Image from jacksonvillewineguide.com|
On initial viewing of the wine list, don't get your mate to hand the wine list to you and say 'Dave, you choose. You're the wine expert.'. Just because you watched Sideways, you are not a wine expert. Expect the waitress to roll her eyes. A lot.
Don't peruse the list for at least ten minutes, not even pausing to look at the food menu, and you don't need to assert your extensive knowledge of wine by asking the waiter overly niche questions about wine that he probably won't know. There's no need - it just embarrasses all parties and makes you look like a tit.
Don't just choose the second- or third-cheapest bottle of wine, because asking for the house wine is just too cheap. If you want to ask for the house wine, ask for the house wine. A good waiter won't sneer at your choices.
Don't pretend your eyes aren't sliding to the right hand side of the wine list. It's obvious you're looking at the price and not the wine.
Do give the waiter/sommelier your budget when you ask them to recommend a wine to you. They won't ask for it otherwise.
Don't assume sophistication is synonymous with the longest name. And don't try and impress your mates by trying (and possibly failing) to pronounce it in an over-the-top European accent.
Don't pick a word halfway down the wine list and say that instead of what the wine is actually called. For instance, I'll go for the Laungedoc' or 'We'll try the French one, please'. The waitress will only have to say, 'Which French one, Sir?' through gritted teeth. Stop being filled with middle-class embarrassment and order the bloody Chardonnay if you want it. It's not 1999.
You don't need to squint at the tasting notes for a good minute whilst the waiter presents the bottle. When tasting, don't give it a good swill round, sniff and gargle with it, then consider it and wrinkle your nose. You look like a dick.
Instead, do just give it a sniff. You don't need to do all that stuff to tell if it's corked or oxidised. If you don't like the wine, that's your problem. You ordered it. Just make sure you know what you're doing in this instance - if you give it a cursory sniff and say it's ok when it's not, you're stuck drinking the whole bottle of wine. They gave you the opportunity to send it back and now it's yours.
Don't pass it to your mate for a second opinion. If you don't know what you're talking about, why the hell did you order and offer to taste the wine?
Don't address your friends when expressing how pleased you are that you lucked out and chose a nice wine. It's rude.When the waitress comes round to pouring yours, don't mutter 'keep going' if she stops short of what you wanted. It makes you look greedy and it makes her feel silly. Just drink some and top it up when she's not looking.
Do end all stories with '… and we were all very, very drunk', in the style of Rowley Birkin QC. Because it's funny.